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Alan Stuart - OAM
“It’s nice to be recognised and that someone thought enough of you to dob you in.”
That sums up how Alan Stuart, a member of Mount Taylor Fire Brigade for more than 59 years, feels about being recognised in today’s Australia Day Honours awards.
Alan has been recognised with a prestigious Medal of the Order of Australia for his years of service to CFA and his community, including a 10-year stint as captain of Mount Taylor brigade and, most recently, heading a volunteer recovery committee that helps fire-affected landowners with the arduous task of getting back on their feet after a major fire.
“I was pretty involved with the clean-up process after the Mount Ray-Boundary track fires last year,” Alan said.
Alan is the head of a recovery group and leads an army of 100-plus volunteers who donate their time working to repair or remove destroyed fencing on fire-affected properties in East Gippsland – a role he has carried out for many years.
Over the years, he has helped after many major fires including those in 2003.
The Mount Ray-Boundary fire burned for 67 days last summer, destroying 6,700 hectares of private and public land and causing thousands of stock losses.
“The fire broke out on 9 February (a flare up from the original 16 January fire) and by 20 April we had either replaced or removed 133km of fencing destroyed by the fire.
“People are under a lot of stress after a big fire has just gone through their properties and affected their livelihoods, so you can’t just come in and say we’re going to do this and that,” Alan said.
“It’s not as simple as going in with an axe and wire cutters. You’ve got to be diplomatic about it and remember you’re dealing with traumatised people.”
When asked how he manages to fit it all in along with managing his own property, Alan said: “if there’s a need you generally fit it in.
“You’ve just got to be fair dinkum, roll your sleeves up and get on with it.”
Speaking about his captaincy of Mount Taylor brigade Alan said: “I survived it and so did everybody else, so I must have been alright”.
Not surprisingly, Alan has witnessed a lot of change in his time with CFA.
“People these days don’t seem to understand fire in the same way landholders did in the old days. They had a really good understanding of fire and how to use it in their best interests.
“It’s in our best interest to control fire as much possible prior to the fire season as we live with bush all around us.
“Nobody likes to see people suffer with fire.”
Alan doesn’t plan on giving up the good work with CFA anytime soon because “it’s a necessity around these parts”.